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Title: The rational design of photocatalytic semiconductor nanocrystals
Author: Eley, Clive William
ISNI:       0000 0004 5369 5002
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis reports the successful rational design of three highly active photocatalytic semiconductor nanocrystal (SNC) systems by exploiting morphology effects and the electronic properties of type II semiconductor heterojunctions. Novel architectures of colloidal SNCs are produced with the aim of suppressing exciton recombination and improving charge extraction for the successful initiation of desirable redox chemistry. Rod-shaped niobium pentoxide Nb2O5 nanocrystals (NCs) are shown to exhibit significantly enhanced activity (10-fold increase in rate constant) relative to spherical-shaped NCs of the same material. The increase is attributed to Nb5+ Lewis acid site rich (001) surfaces, present in higher proportions in the rod morphology, which bind organic substrates from solution resulting in direct interaction with photogenerated charges on the surface of the NC. Building on the insights into morphology-activity dependence, type II semiconductor heterojunctions are exploited for their ability to increase exciton lifetimes and spatially separate charges. Two novel II-VI heterostructured semiconductor nanocrystals (HSNCs) systems are investigated: a series of CdX/ZnO (X = S, Se, Te) HSNCs and ZnS/ZnO HSNCs capped with two different surface ligands. In the first case, substantial photocatalytic activity improvement is observed for HSNCs (relative to pure ZnO analogues) according to the following trend: CdTe/ZnO > CdS/ZnO > CdSe/ZnO. The observed trend is explained in terms of heterojunction structure and fundamental chalcogenide chemistry. In the second case, both ZnS/ZnO HSNCs exhibit activity enhancement over analogous pure ZnO, but the degree of enhancement is found to be a function of surface ligand chemistry. Photocatalytic activity testing of all the materials investigated in this work is performed via the photodecomposition of methylene blue dye in aerated aqueous conditions under UVA (350 nm) irradiation. The synthetic techniques employed for the synthesis of colloidal SNCs investigated in this thesis range from chemical precipitation and solvothermal techniques to several different organometallic approaches. A wide variety of analytical techniques are employed for the chemical, structural and optical characterisation of SNC photocatalysts including: XRD, XPS, TEM, UV-vis absorption, PL spectroscopy and FTIR. Atom Probe Tomography (APT) is employed for the first time in the structural characterisation of II-VI heterojunctions in colloidal HSNCs. Overall, this thesis provides a useful contribution to the growing body of knowledge pertaining to the enhancement of photocatalytic SNCs for useful applications including: solar energy conversion to chemical fuels, the photodecomposition of pollutants and light-driven synthetic chemistry.
Supervisor: Tsang, S. C. Edman Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Chemistry & allied sciences ; Catalysis ; Nanomaterials ; Photochemistry and reaction dynamics ; Structure of interfaces ; Materials Sciences ; Nanostructures ; Semiconductors ; colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals ; semiconductor photocatalysis ; shape effects on photocatalysis ; heterostructures ; II-VI nanocrystals ; type II heterojunctions